If your cat has gone missing, there are a number of things you can do to help find your lost pet. Here are our top tips.
- Do not delay in taking action or wait for your cat to return to you – the first 48 hours are crucial.
- Inform your neighbours; show them a picture of your cat and ask them to check their gardens, sheds, garages and outhouses for him or her, and contact you immediately with any sightings.
- Search thoroughly. Pay particular attention to places where your cat may have sought shelter or have become trapped (garages, sheds, empty houses).
- When searching, keep your phone on you at all times, call your cat's name and carry an item that carries his or her scent, such as a blanket or toy.
- Search at different times; for example, try the early hours of the morning, when the streets are quiet.
- Leave your cat's used litter tray, bedding or toy in your garden as the scent may help to lead them home.
- If your pet is microchipped, contact the database that holds his/her microchip details and flag your pet as missing:
Petlog – 01296 336 579
PetTrac – 0800 652 9 977
Identibase – 01904 487600.
- Create a missing poster for your pet and distribute this as far as you are able, ensuring that the roads surrounding your home (or where the pet was lost) are covered. Do this as soon as possible. You can also ask local businesses to display the poster in their shop windows. Animal Search UK offer a professional leafletting service; http://www.animalsearchuk.co.uk/lost-pet-posters.php.
- Email the poster to all veterinary surgeries within a five - ten mile radius of your home, asking them to display the poster somewhere in their establishment that it is view-able to the public, and to contact you immediately if they encounter your pet. This website will provide you with the contact details of all vets within 50 miles, ordered by distance: http://findavet.rcvs.org.uk/find-a-vet/.
- Do the same with cat charities; you can find a list of charities by area here: https://www.catchat.org/index.php/cat-rescue-centres-uk-ireland.
- Share the poster on your own Facebook and encourage friends and family to do so. Post it on local and relevant Facebook groups, ensuring to abide by each group's rules on such posts.
- Don't just share the poster on Facebook – tweet it, even if this means creating a Twitter account for this purpose alone. Include relevant and local hashtags in your tweet as this will widen your audience – for example #Greenwich or #SELondon.
- Contact your local council and ask them to inform you of any road accident involving animals in your area. You can find a list of local councils and their contact details here; http://directory.londoncouncils.gov.uk/
- You can also register your pet as missing with the following websites:
- If someone claims to have found your cat, ask them to send photos of him or her, and never meet the individual alone or in a secluded place. If you have offered a monetary reward for the safe return of your cat, then do not transfer or send this - hand it over face-to-face, once your pet is safely back in your custody.
- More great advice can be found at https://www.catchat.org/index.php/cat-missing-lost-found.
How to pevent your cat from getting lost, injured or stolen
- Get your cat microchipped by a vet or animal care professional before allowing him or her outside, and ensure that you update the microchip registration details when you move home or change phone numbers. In some cases, lost cats have been reunited with their owners many years after going missing, all thanks to their microchip.
- Neuter your cat before allowing him or her outside. Unneutered cats are prone to wandering long distances in search of a mate, particularly males, and many never find their way home. They are also prone to fighting and to contracting viruses such as FIV; read more here.
- Buy a safety (breakaway) collar and ID tag for your cat. For cats prone to loosing collars, purchase several so that you always have a back up collar.
- Install a cat-flap so that your cat has free access to your home, and is never left waiting outside for someone to let him or her in. This can be particularly important if your cat is running away from a threat.
- Allow your cat access to your back, rather than front, garden, as it usually far safer for a cat to stay within a network of gardens, rather than walk the streets.
- Purchase window protectors to allow fresh air into your home, whilst preventing escape and accidental falls. Install safety netting on balconies and roof terraces.
- Bring your cat inside at night, after his or her evening meal. If you are in bed, you may not notice that your cat is missing or hurt until morning, and road accidents involving cats often happen at night.
- Keep your cat inside with the cat-flap locked if you are going to be out of the house for a long period.
- If your cat is being visited daily in your home by a cat-sitter whilst you are away on holiday, keep the cat inside with the cat-flap locked for the duration of your absence. Cats are more prone to wander if they have no-one to return home to for much of the day.
- Introduce cats to a new garden very gradually, after 1-3 months in their new home and under supervision at first. Cats should be at least six months old, neutered, microchipped, and fully vaccinated before venturing outside for the first time.
- Always transport your cat in a sturdy cat carrier, ensuring that doors and fastenings are secure and not damaged or broken.
- Keep your cat inside during holidays involving fireworks, such as Firework Night, Chinese New Year, and New Year's Eve. Fireworks may startle your cats into busy roads or cause them to hide, or to become disorientated and lost. Black cats in particular may be at risk in the month of October and on Halloween.
- Ensure you have clear, high-quality photos of your cat to circulate if he or she ever goes missing.
- If possible, check on your cat periodically - at least once every few hours - whilst he or she is outside.
If you live near a busy road -
- Consider cat-proofing your garden with specialised fencing, or creating an outdoor cat enclosure. Also useful for pedigree cats who are at particular risk of theft.
- Consider adopting a particularly street savvy, adult cat (such as an ex-stray).
- Consider adopting an indoor-only cat. Older cats, cats with special needs or a laid back temperament are often well suited to the indoor life.